Dan Feldman

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76ers president Bryan Colangelo: Markelle Fultz might miss rest of season


The 76ers played No. 1 pick Markelle Fultz through his shoulder problems. Then, they sat him for three games. Then, they said he’d miss at least three more weeks. Then, they said he’d miss at least another two to three weeks. Then, they said they anticipated him returning soon. Two days after that, they said he’d miss at least three more weeks.


Jessica Camerato of NBC Sports Philadelphia:

Fultz has already played four games, so it’s too late for him to follow Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid, Nerlens Noel and Dario Saric, who didn’t play for the 76ers the season after getting drafted in the lottery. But Fultz’s first-year impact could wind up practically as small.

It’s hard to believe Fultz will return soon. Philadelphia is waiting for him to be able to shoot, and well….

Derek Bodner of The Athletic:

In some ways, the 76ers are hanging Fultz out to dry. They keep having him shoot in front of the media, and leaving his timeline so uncertain only intensifies questions. They’ve already caused strife with their portrayal of the root of the injury.

But this is such a strange situation. I don’t know whether Philadelphia can predict when Fultz will shoot capably again.

Koby Altman: Cavaliers worried they were ‘marching to a slow death’


The Cavaliers were 7-13 in their last 20 games heading into the trade deadline. Their defense ranked near last in the NBA. There appeared to be discord at every level of the organization – terrible timing, considering LeBron James‘ impending player option.

It felt like a dark cloud hung over Cleveland.

So, the Cavs conducted a radical overhaul yesterday. They traded six players (Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Iman Shumpert, Channing Frye, Dwyane Wade and Derrick Rose) for four (George Hill, Rodney Hood, Larry Nance Jr. and Jordan Clarkson) while adding payroll and surrendering picks.

Cavaliers’ general manager Koby Altman, via Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic:

“We were really worried that what was going on on the floor and sort of our culture in the building, we were marching to a slow death,” Altman said Thursday night. “We didn’t want to be a part of that.”

Teams usually deny such grave problems, nobody wanting to admit they let such a toxic environment develop on their watch. Altman is being atypically blunt despite holding some culpability.

He traded Kyrie Irving for Thomas and Crowder (and, of course, the Nets pick), still approving the trade after seeing Thomas’ physical (getting just an extra second-rounder). Thomas spent most of the season sidelined, struggled upon his return while still assuming a huge role and pointed fingers. Crowder underwhelmed all season, though for reasons more difficult to pinpoint, and that only contributed to the feeling of despair in Cleveland.

Maybe Altman just got unlucky with Thomas and Crowder, whose Cavs tenures went about as poorly as could have been imagined when the Irving trade was consummated. But Wade and Rose – whom Altman crowed about – flopped for more predictable reasons. Under Altman, communication between LeBron and the front office reportedly broke down.

That was a stark contrast to Altman’s predecessor and old boss, David Griffin. But Altman’s statement yesterday brought to mind Griffin’s words when firing David Blatt: “Pretty good is not what we’re here for.”

Of course, Griffin and Altman spoke so freely only because they’d already made the bold moves to change course. Griffin’s resulted in Tyronn Lue guiding the Cavs to a championship. We’ll see whether Altman’s prompts a march toward such a fruitful outcome.

Agent says Isaiah Thomas won’t come off the bench, Magic Johnson calls Lonzo Ball the Lakers’ starting PG


Just last season, Isaiah Thomas finished fifth in MVP voting. You could hear the beeping as his Brinks truck backed up.

Yesterday, the Cavaliers traded him – seemingly more as an expiring contract than basketball player – to the Lakers, a team that already has a franchise point guard in Lonzo Ball.

Rachel Nichols on ESPN:

I’ve been texting with Isaiah Thomas’ agent, and he says in capital letters: “HE IS NOT COMING OFF THE BENCH.” The idea is that they would a buyout, maybe, before they did something like that.

Ohm Youngmisuk ESPN:

Johnson and Pelinka made it clear that Thomas will play for the Lakers and that management can see him mentoring and playing alongside rookie point guard Lonzo Ball. Johnson said Ball remains the team’s starting point guard but that the Lakers need someone to fill the role while Ball is out with a sprained MCL.

“We talked to him. He’s so excited,” Johnson said of Thomas. “He said his father was born and raised in Inglewood so he’s really excited, and also right now Zo’s hurt. We need a point guard. So especially with that type of experience and the fact that he can score the basketball and pass it, we want to get him in here fast. We told him that. … We need somebody to come in there and lead our troops.”

“It’s not about starting, it’s about how many minutes you get,” Johnson added. “He’s going to get a lot of minutes.”

Thomas’ agent, Aaron Goodwin, via Sam Amick of USA Today:

Once he spoke to (Lakers president of basketball operations) Magic (Johnson) and (general manager) Rob (Pelinka), he was ecstatic about the opportunity. It’s clear that he’ll get a chance to play, and play up-tempo like he has played throughout his career. And that’s all we can ask for. That was our biggest concern.

This situation takes care of itself while Ball is still sidelined. After that? It’s unclear exactly where Thomas falls between just being initially upset about the trade then calming down and holding a sustaining, complete opposition to coming off the bench.

Thomas and Ball can play together in that Ball is tall enough to defend multiple positions (though not necessarily well at this stage of his career) and Thomas can’t defend anyone. Offensively, there’s probably too much overlap between the primary ball-handlers, though Ball cuts well off the ball.

Starting is often about pride, and Thomas has plenty. Even with significant playing time, he might balk at a reserve role. And when Thomas is unhappy, he’s not one to stay silent.

Thomas is running out of time to prove himself before free agency. He was dreadful in Cleveland as he returned from a hip injury, and the Lakers’ season will end months before the Cavs’. A big payday, already, an uphill battle battle, became even more unlikely with yesterday’s trade.

In the end, Thomas will probably do what the Lakers ask. What choice does he have? He’s due just $2,193,257 the rest of the season. Even if he volunteered to relinquish all that, is it enough for the Lakers to accept a buyout?

Thomas worked his tail off to become a star while still locked into a relatively low-paying contract, played through injury then got traded twice – now to a team with a point guard it already believes in. I empathize with him.

But, at this point, his best way to maximize future earnings is playing well whatever role the Lakers give him.

Report: Cavaliers made trades without long-term commitment from LeBron James

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The Cavaliers have been trying to get LeBron James to commit to Cleveland long-term, Cavs owner Dan Gilbert seemingly particularly wary of going all-in this season if LeBron might leave in free agency this summer. But LeBron pledged to stay only the rest of the season, no longer.

Yesterday, the Cavaliers traded for George Hill, Rodney Hood, Larry Nance Jr. and Jordan Clarkson. In those deals, Cleveland:

  • Increased spending this season by $9,606,233 ($582,337 in prorated salary, $6,923,896 in increased luxury tax, $2,100,000 in cash sent to the Kings and Jazz) – plus the cost of additional players with two cleared roster spots, which be taxed at 425% of their salaries
  • Increased its 2018-19 payroll by $15,455,332 – not counting paying Hood in restricted free agency or the luxury tax
  • Increased its 2019-20 payroll by $6,621,967
  • Surrendered its own 2018 first-round pick, a 2020 second-rounder and swap rights on its 2024 second-rounder with Utah

That’s significant long-term cost. Did it earn the Cavaliers a pledge from LeBron?

Brian Windhorst of ESPN:

The Cavs did not get a commitment from LeBron James that he will stay past this season before executing today’s trade, sources said.

This is unsurprising. LeBron values his leverage, and he won’t relinquish it this easily. He can opt out next summer, and once again, Cleveland will be forced to please him.

Yesterday’s trades could help. They revitalize what had increasingly become a toxic environment. They make the roster better-equipped to win now. And they remind LeBron management is committed to winning.

But LeBron also views big spending as an expectation, not a favor. He doesn’t seem inclined to give Gilbert the benefit of the doubt on anything. However LeBron feels today about the trades will dissipate, and his last game experience heading into the offseason will still likely be a playoff loss.

For four years, LeBron and Gilbert have formed a tense, prosperous partnership that has resulted in three straight trips to the NBA Finals and a championship. LeBron has delivered on the floor and drawn attention to the Cavs. Gilbert opened his checkbook in a major way, and that continued yesterday.

But thanks to his repeated short-term contracts and no-shortage of teams eager to court him, LeBron still has leverage.

The Cavaliers hold some cards, too. They didn’t trade the Nets pick, the most valuable chip in a potential post-LeBron rebuild. Or that pick could be used in a win-now trade this summer to woo LeBron.

No matter what steps were taken yesterday, the effort of convincing LeBron that Cleveland is the right place for him never ends. He has made sure of that.

Kings to waive Georgios Papagiannis less than two years after drafting him in lottery

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Shortly after the Kings drafted Georgios Papagiannis with the No. 13 pick in the 2016 NBA draft, DeMarcus Cousins tweeted:

Cousins claimed he was talking about yoga, not criticizing his then-team’s pick. But if he were talking about the draft, maybe Cousins was onto something.

Papagiannis has barely played in two NBA seasons and performed poorly when he has gotten onto the court. Now, he appears headed out of the league at age 20.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

This presumably clears the way for the Kings to keep Bruno Caboclo, whom they acquired in a trade with the Raptors today. Sacramento needed to clear a roster spot to facilitate its trade with the Cavaliers and Jazz (Joe Johnson and Iman Shumpert for George Hill).

The Kings will be on the hook for the rest of Papagiannis’ $2,301,360 salary this season and his $2,400,480 salary next season. Obviously, it never looks good to waive such a high pick so soon.

But Sacramento got the No. 13 pick by trading down from No. 8 on draft night. The eighth pick, Marquese Chriss, is floundering, and other assets the Kings netted in the deal – the rights to Bogdan Bogdanovic and the pick that became Skal Labissiere – are providing more value. So, that makes it easier to stomach dropping Papagiannis.